Watergate II : indictments : NY Times ignores the obvious


Richard Moore

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 - Over a seven-week period in the
    spring of 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney's suite in the
    Old Executive Office Building appears to have served as
    the nerve center of an effort to gather and spread word
    about Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, a C.I.A.

In other words, the foundation has been laid for further
indictments, perhaps involving conspiracy. Interesting 
that the NY Times does not mention this obvious fact.



The indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr. lifts a veil on how aggressively 
the vice president's office fought to discredit Iraq war.

October 30, 2005 
The Vice President's Office 

Indictment Gives Glimpse Into a Secretive Operation 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 - Over a seven-week period in the
spring of 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney's suite in the
Old Executive Office Building appears to have served as
the nerve center of an effort to gather and spread word
about Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, a C.I.A.

I. Lewis Libby Jr., the vice president's chief of staff, 
was charged Friday in an indictment that provides a rare
glimpse inside a vice presidential operation that, under
Mr. Cheney, has been extraordinary both for its power and
its secrecy. The indictment also leaves unanswered some
questions about the way the vice president's office
responded to Mr. Wilson and his criticism of the
administration's case for going to war in Iraq .

Mr. Libby is the only aide to Mr. Cheney who has been
charged with a crime. But the indictment alleges that Mr.
Cheney himself and others in the office took part in
discussions about the origins of a trip by Mr. Wilson to
Niger in 2002; about the identity of his wife, Valerie
Wilson; and whether the information could be shared with
reporters, in the period before it was made public in a
July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak.

The indictment identifies the other officials only by
their titles, but it clearly asserts that others involved
in the discussion included David Addington, Mr. Cheney's
counsel; John Hannah, deputy national security adviser;
and Catherine Martin, then Mr. Cheney's press secretary.

Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah in particular were powerful
forces within the administration, and like Mr. Cheney and
Mr. Libby, they had often been at odds with the C.I.A.
before the war in Iraq.

Mr. Hannah, Mr. Addington and Ms. Martin have all declined
to comment, citing legal advice. The fact that they were
not named in the indictment suggests that they will not be
charged, but all can expect to be called as witnesses in
any trial of Mr. Libby, setting up a spectacle that could
be unpleasant for the administration, in part because
their own actions could be questioned.

That Mr. Cheney and his office sparred with the C.I.A.
before the invasion of Iraq has never been a secret. Mr.
Cheney and Mr. Libby made repeated trips to C.I.A.
headquarters in Langley, Va., in the months before the
American invasion in March 2003, and Mr. Libby was often
on the phone with senior C.I.A. officials to challenge the
agency's intelligence reports on Iraq. A principal focus,
former intelligence officials say, was the question of
whether Al Qaeda had had a close, collaborative
relationship with Saddam Hussein's government, an argument
advanced publicly by Mr. Cheney but rejected by the C.I.A.
intelligence analysts.

The antipathy felt by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby toward Mr.
Wilson, in the aftermath of the invasion, has also long
been known. But the events spelled out in the 22-page
indictment suggest a far more active, earlier effort by
the vice president's office to gather information about
him and his wife.

The indictment tracks a period in the spring of 2003, at a
time when the American failure to find illicit weapons in
Iraq meant that the administration's rationale for war was
beginning to unravel, and when early reports about Mr.
Wilson's 2002 trip, which had not yet identified him by
name, raised questions about whether the White House
should have known just how weak its case had been,
particularly involving Iraq and nuclear weapons.

By any measure, the indictment suggests that Mr. Libby and
others went to unusual lengths to gather information about
Mr. Wilson and his trip. An initial request on May 29,
2003, from Mr. Libby to Marc Grossman, the undersecretary
of state for political affairs, led Mr. Grossman to
request a classified memorandum from Carl Ford, the
director of the State Department's intelligence bureau,
and later Mr. Grossman orally briefed Mr. Libby on its

Later requests appear to have prompted C.I.A. officials,
on June 9, to fax classified information to Mr. Cheney's
office about Mr. Wilson's trip, which Mr. Wilson made on
behalf of the C.I.A. to investigate reports that Iraq had
struck a deal to acquire uranium from Niger for use in its
nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Cheney himself is alleged to have shared details about
the nature of Ms. Wilson's job with Mr. Libby, on June 12.
The indictment says that Mr. Libby first shared
information about Mr. Wilson's trip with a reporter,
Judith Miller of The New York Times, on June 23; but it
also describes discussions involving Mr. Libby, Mr.
Addington, Mr. Hannah, Ms. Martin and White House
officials, about whether the information could be shared
with reporters.

Among the discussions, the indictment says, was one in
mid-June, in which Mr. Libby is said to have told Mr.
Hannah that there could be complications at the C.I.A. if
information about Mr. Wilson's trip was shared publicly.
It is not clear how Mr. Cheney may have learned "from the
C.I.A." that Ms. Wilson worked in the agency's
counterproliferation division, a fact that meant she was
part of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, and that she
might well be working undercover.

Lawyers in the case say that notes taken by Mr. Libby
indicate that detail was provided to Mr. Cheney by George
J. Tenet , who was the director of central intelligence at
the time, but several former intelligence officials say
they do not believe that Mr. Tenet was the source of the

Many questions remain unanswered in the indictment. The
special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said that Ms.
Wilson's affiliation with the C.I.A. had been classified,
but he did not assert that Mr. Libby knew that she had
covert status, something the prosecutor would have had to
prove to support a charge under the Intelligence
Identities Protection Act.

It is not clear, for example, what guidance, if any, Mr.
Cheney gave to Mr. Libby about whether or how to share
information about Mr. Wilson's trip with reporters. Among
their discussions, lawyers in the case have said, was one
on July 11, 2003, on a trip to Norfolk, Va., that preceded
by a day what two reporters, Ms. Miller and Matthew Cooper
of Time magazine, have said were conversations in which
Mr. Libby mentioned Mr. Wilson's wife.

Beyond Mr. Cheney's office, some of the government
officials involved in the discussions have yet to be
identified. It is not clear from the indictment, for
example, who faxed the "classified information from the
C.I.A." about Mr. Wilson's trip to the vice president's
office on June 9, or which "senior C.I.A. officer"
provided further information to Mr. Libby on June 11.

Another question is whether Mr. Libby made appropriate use
of the top-level briefings provided to him by the C.I.A.
The indictment says that Mr. Libby complained to a C.I.A.
briefer on June 14 that C.I.A. officials were making
comments critical of the Bush administration, and that he
mentioned, among other things, "Joe Wilson" and "Valerie
Wilson" in the context of Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger. Also
still unclear is how Ms. Martin, the press secretary, may
have learned in June or early July that Mr. Wilson's wife
worked at the C.I.A. The indictment says that Ms. Martin
learned the information from "another government official"
and shared that information with Mr. Libby.

Mr. Grossman, who served under Colin L. Powell , left the
government in January and is now a private consultant. Mr.
Addington, still Mr. Cheney's counsel, has been a major
participant in debates within the administration about the
treatment of terror suspects,  and whether those held at
the American facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba , should
face military tribunals. Mr. Hannah, a Middle East
specialist, was a main liaison between the vice
president's office and Ahmad Chalabi, who as an Iraqi
exile was a major force in urging the administration
toward war.

Mr. Hannah and Mr. Libby were also the main authors of a
48-page draft speech prepared in January 2003 that was
intended to make the administration's case for war in Iraq
before the United Nations. The draft was provided to Mr.
Powell before his speech to the Security Council on Feb.
5, 2003. But most of its contents were cast aside by Mr.
Powell and Mr. Tenet, who ultimately  rejected many claims
related to Iraq, its weapons program and terrorism as
exaggerated and unwarranted.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 


"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"

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